Ten days after a Florida-based corrections firm was awarded the contract to take over the Augusta YDC, the company gave a job to one of the committee members who evaluated its winning bid.
Juvenile Justice Department spokeswoman Jaci Vickers verified that Robert Lanier served as a technical consultant, on a contract basis, in judging proposals by companies that sought the lucrative five-year job of operating the Augusta Youth Development Campus, a boys' detention center in south Augusta that houses the state's mentally ill and mentally troubled juvenile offenders.
Youth Services International's juvenile division senior vice president, Jesse Williams, would neither confirm nor deny that the company has hired Mr. Lanier, but a worker at the Paulding Regional Youth Detention Center in Dallas, Ga., which the company operates, confirmed that Youth Services hired him Dec. 29 as a program administrator.
The contract was awarded Dec. 19, and the company is scheduled to take over Feb. 16. The contract will pay Youth Services $6.8 million per year for 100 beds, with a potential to increase to $8.4 million if 40 more beds are added.
Mr. Lanier did not return messages left for him at the Paulding facility. He once worked for Juvenile Justice as director of the Waycross RYDC and retired from the department in 2000, Ms. Vickers said.
Mr. Lanier was one of five bid evaluators for the Augusta YDC job. The evaluators signed statements attesting that they had no personal interest in any of the proposals, and their committee rules prohibited anyone from participating who had a personal interest in any of the companies.
"Mr. Lanier may have had a relationship with Youth Services International prior to or while participating in the proposal evaluation process," said a letter of protest that current YDC operator Unique Solutions sent to the state Administrative Services Department on Wednesday. The letter says the bid process was flawed and gave the Florida company an inside track.
"Clearly, this issue alone presents a significant conflict of interest and a fatal flaw in the bidding process," the letter said.
Unique Solutions' letter also alleged that Juvenile Justice's acting commissioner, Gregory Maxey, signed the contract with Youth Services a month before it was awarded and that bidders were confused about whether they were bidding on a 100- or 150-bed facility. Youth Services was allowed to submit a separate proposal for 140 beds, which spread out fixed costs and lowered the price per child, while competitors weren't, the company says.
Of the three qualified bids submitted to the state, the evaluation team, which included Mr. Lanier, rated Augusta-based Unique Solutions the best, Youth Services second and Securicor, of Richmond, Va., last.
The final decision was made by Administrative Services, and the Florida company won out on the financial side. Based on 100 beds for high-needs children, Unique Solutions bid $325 per child per day, Securicor bid $223.95 and Youth Services bid $196.50.
Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.